Our official list of the Best Cover Songs of 2017 comes next week. But first, we’re continuing the tradition we started last year by rounding up some of the songs it most killed us to cut in a grab-bag post. No ranking, no writing, just a bunch of knockout covers.
When people argue over the Worst Song of All Time, inevitably someone will mention Journey’s (in)famous “Don’t Stop Believin’.” If Starship had never built that city on rock and roll, it would probably take the crown.
Frankly, I like other Journey songs, but “Don’t Stop Believin'” deserves most of the hate it gets. Its ubiquity on class rock radio, bad karaoke stages, and every college a cappella group that ever donned bow ties has made in insufferable (thank the Glee cover inexplicably going to #4 on the charts for the last one). Even The Sopranos couldn’t give it a coolness bump. It is not only Journey’s biggest song by a mile, it’s one of the most well-known songs of the 1980s, period.
The funny thing is that when it came out, not only was it not Journey’s biggest hit, it wasn’t even the biggest hit on that same album. “Open Arms” off Escape went to #2. “Who’s Crying Now” went to #4. “Don’t Stop Believin’,” meanwhile, barely scraped its way into the top ten.
Escape turns 36 this week, which might occasion a Full Album if anyone ever covered any of the other songs off it. But they don’t. They only cover “Don’t Stop Believin’.”
“Shape of My Heart” by Theory of a Deadman represents the first single released from their upcoming album which they are currently recording in London. It is a fantastic choice of cover for this band, albeit a surprising departure from their Nickelback-infused originals. Tyler Connolly’s voice sits comfortably in Sting’s range with a more gruff, rocker vibe than the pop infused original.
Much of the heart of the original is kept intact for this cover with a few notable exceptions. The harmonica solo is replaced with some beautifully executed finger picking on the guitar – more Spanish flamenco than Parisian cafe. The constant presence of a shaker only serves to enhance the Spanish feel. Theory of a Deadman adds backing claps and some synth to the instrumental arsenal, filling out the sound.
In Memoriam pays tribute to those who have left this world, and the songs they left us to remember them by.
Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself, I am large, I contain multitudes. – Walt Whitman
Today’s In Memoriam is brought to you by the letter B:
B is for Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn and blunts.
B is for beats and braggadocio.
B is for Big Poppa, Biggie Smalls, or maybe you know him as The Notorious B.I.G..
Guru may have been the architect, RZA is the scientist, but P-O-P-P-A? He’s the king, and Biggie begat a generation of hip hop artists who are still following the path he blazed. No small feat for a chubby drug dealer who released only one album in his lifetime.
Five Good Covers presents five cross-genre reinterpretations of an oft-covered song.
Jimi Hendrix was only 27 when he died in 1970. Stop and ponder that for a second. An immense talent whose career was tragically cut short more than four decades ago, Hendrix continues to interest and influence musicians and music lovers, and for good reason. Although Hendrix was primarily a rocker, his music was really a fusion of rock, blues, soul, funk and jazz, and probably some other things, too.
“Little Wing” is a concise masterpiece, lasting less than two and a half minutes in its original studio version, which infuriatingly fades out during a guitar solo. It contains a few unmistakable guitar riffs, with a distinctive tone that Hendrix described as sounding like “jelly bread,” achieved by running the guitar through the Leslie speaker of an organ. The song is intense without being frantic, and at the same time is also ethereal and seductive. It also is very much of its time, with lyrics about “butterflies and zebras, and moonbeams and fairy tales.”
Though Bob Dylan moved away from his role as a ‘protest singer’ long ago — we saw Another Side by his fourth album — his name will forever be associated with social activism. The international human rights organization Amnesty International rose out of the same turbulent era as Dylan, forming in 1961, the year Dylan recorded his first album. Fitting, then, that in celebration of their 50th birthday, Amnesty would call on artists to contribute their Dylan covers to the massive four disc set Chimes of Freedom: The Songs of Bob Dylan Honoring 50 Years of Amnesty International.